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5 Best National Parks for Birdwatching

Have you ever tried birdwatching in a national park?

This hobby can be a really great way to experience the diverse wildlife around the country. We love that you can do it from your porch or use it to get outside and be active.

Whatever you enjoy doing while visiting a national park, you can easily incorporate birdwatching. Today we’ll find the best spots to look to the skies.

Let’s fly!

What Is Birdwatching?

Historically, birdwatching was an essential tool for locals. When the flocks migrated, the cold would be coming soon. They could also help lead anglers to fish.

As binoculars and other optical aids have become more popular and accessible over the last 100 years, this hobby has increased in popularity. According to the 2006 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Study, nearly 20% of Americans consider themselves birdwatchers. 

This inexpensive pastime sounds pretty simple, you just sit back and watch. But we love the scientific nature of it. You get to learn about each species’s home or habitat. As you travel around the country to different national parks, you can learn about the wildlife that lives there and how they survive in the environment.

What’s the Difference Between Birdwatching and Birding?

We consider ourselves birdwatchers. We like to see new types when out walking or camping in a new area. Later, we might look them up online or in a field guide to learn more about them. Birdwatchers take pleasure in seeing the animals while enjoying time outside.

Birders, on the other hand, go outside for the sole purpose of spotting their target. Some will go on vacation to try to locate a particular species. This version of the hobby is more serious, and the participants enjoy tracking animals in their natural habitat and going out of their way to catch specific breeds. 

Couple birdwatching together in national park
Enjoy nature while birdwatching in some of the best U.S. national parks.

5 National Parks for Birdwatchers

If you want to do some birdwatching on your next national park trip, we have some recommended stops for you. We’ve done some research for you so that you know which of the 63 to visit to if you enjoy the avian sights and songs. 

#1 Big Bend National Park (Texas)

Tucked away in the mountains of Texas, Big Bend National Park is renowned for birdwatching. It has nearly 400 species, including one that doesn’t live anywhere else in the United States, the Comina Warbler. 

The species change depending on when you visit. Spring brings the most flocks, notably the painted bunting and common black hawk. In the winter, you’ll likely see, or rather hear, song sparrows and long-eared owls. Year-round, you can catch classic birds of the American southwest, including roadrunners and cactus wrens. 

#2 Death Valley National Park (California)

Another great national park for birdwatching, Death Valley, sees a lot of migratory groups. The area is known for its brutally hot summer days and freezing cold winter nights. Some campgrounds become inaccessible due to winter snow, so check online before you book your trip.

Very few birds live in Death Valley through the winter, but you may catch a glimpse of loggerhead shrikes or rock wrens. The Furnace Creek area of the park houses many species as they pass through. American robins and yellow-rumped warblers, among others, can be seen in this area in both the fall and spring.

#3 Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

You’ve probably heard about the bats at this national park, but it’s also a striking place for birdwatching. Outside of the caverns, you can find several trails, along which you might see some of the 357 species flying around here.

Like Death Valley, birdwatching lulls in the wintertime. But they’re common in the area from spring through fall. The summer can be quite hot, but the weather is much nicer in other seasons. You might see Ladder-backed woodpeckers and a cave swallow during your trip. 

Pro Tip: Use our guide on How to Spend a Day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park during your birdwatching adventure.

#4 Everglades National Park (Florida)

If you want to see some waterfowl, visit this park! You can cath a glimpse of wading birds, including cormorants and egrets, during the winter. Mangrove cuckoos, Snail Kites, and warblers can be easily spotted depending on which section you visit. With a little luck, you might even spot an osprey or a bald eagle.

The best time to visit is during the dry season, which extends from November to April. Unlike some other destinations, the winter can be the perfect time for birdwatching in Everglades National Park. We recommend visiting the Gulf Coast Vicinity, and you may want to take a boat tour of the Ten Thousand Islands to catch these creatures in action.

#5 Acadia National Park (Maine)

Acadia National Park has been called the “warbler capital of the world.” Over 20 species of songbirds live throughout the area. 

During every season but winter, visit Cadillac Mountain or Carriage Roads to watch some birds. You can also visit Jordan Pond or Sieur de Monts Springs during your trip. Cadillac Mountain requires advanced reservations, even if you just want to scope for feathered friends, so plan accordingly.

Depending on which areas you visit, you may hear some songbirds and see hawks. If you plan to go in the winter, you’ll want to go to Otter Point or Thompson Islands. You can look at seabirds and gulls year-round. 

Pro Tip: While birdwatching in Acadia, keep an out for these Most Dangerous Creatures in Acadia National Park.

Tips for Birdwatching

Birdwatching quickly becomes a bore if you don’t see any wildlife. We’ve got some tips to make sure you spot something worthwhile and have a blast.

Bring Binoculars

All birds can look alike when far away. But if you invest in a pair of binoculars, you can take the experience to the next level. Seeing the details of each species will help you feel a new appreciation for this hobby. The animals have so much beauty to share, but you have to zoom up close to truly soak it in.

8-power binoculars are an excellent choice to get the best views of the feathery friends.

Stay Quiet

We’ve probably all watched a bird flutter away when we open the door or walk by. They frighten easily. If you want to see some and have time to appreciate them before they fly off, keep your noise to a minimum. Even opening a granola bar may seem quiet to you, but it’ll probably scare off any animals in the vicinity.

Enjoy Your Snacks, but Don’t Share With Wildlife

Speaking of granola bars, don’t share them with the wildlife. Feeding human food to animals can be harmful to them. Also, if animals become habituated to humans, they may become a menace. Follow the national park service’s motto, and take only photos, leave only footprints.

Is Birdwatching a Good Passtime?

Birdwatching can be a fantastic way to experience the local wildlife when visiting a National Park. Maybe you just want to watch and listen as you enjoy your morning coffee on the porch. Or perhaps you’re interested in being a serious birder. You can become as invested in the hobby as you like.

Whatever your involvement level, if you appreciate seeing feathery friends while outside, you’re already a birdwatcher.

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